The Sabbatical - A Dying Perk

There was a time when long time employees could expect to have a sabbatical, time to work on personal projects, or to just take a break. It would be nice to come back into vogue

The Sabbatical - A Dying Perk
Photo by Juan Encalada on Unsplash

When I first entered the big time, corporate America circa 1998, one of the benefits of the company was that after putting in 6 years, all salaried employees were granted a 2 month paid sabbatical. As a newbie in the corporate realm, this seemed esoteric, and eccentric.

Of course, I didn’t stay there long enough to experience this benefit but knowing that it was on the table was reassuring.

25 years later, I look back and wonder why these benefits are gone.

Sure, granting one to three months of paid1 time off to “get away” and fully recover is not an inexpensive undertaking, but several sources report that sabbaticals are making a comeback, at least for senior leaders2 as a way to stress test the organization, and to also provide top performers a trial in the limelight, providing an opportunity to try out various succession scenarios.

In all, this is a healthy exercise, that often leads to improving the organization, reducing stress on some of the most important assets in the company, helping to elevate more leaders too. A win-win.

But, at my level, alas, there is no such perk. Sure, my employer is very generous allowing up to 80 hours (2 weeks) of paid volunteer time. Alas, while some people will book a week or more doing volunteer work, one notable colleague flying to Puerto Rico and building houses for the displaced from hurricanes, most do one offs. A day at a food bank. Or volunteering at a Teacher’s resource center or working at the local soup kitchen.

But piecemeal options are not the same as a sabbatical. Where you can leave the plane of work to focus on something that gives you meaning. Where you don’t have to match your charitable time against an approved list of organizations so that it counts for your 80 hours allowed.

That is not the main reason. The sabbatical comes with no strings attached. If you should so choose, you could just take it as an 8 week vacation. Want to do a long tour of the Biblical lands?  Great. Want to chill by your pool sipping umbrella drinks?  Knock yourself out. Want to go head’s down and work on a novel project you have been considering? Yep. All good.

Why bring this up?

I have been in a tough place lately. Sure, I had 2 weeks off at the year end shutdown, but I found that it took about 2/3s of that time to truly unplug and let the stress of the job go.

Had I stayed at that original company that offered the 6 week paid sabbatical after 6 years, I would now be eligible for that time. And truth be told, I need that sort of a break. I am getting so tired, that I fall into bed too early every night, knotted with the stress of the day behind, and the thought of the next day of work gnawing at my subconscious. It is time for a lengthy break in the toil.

A sabbatical would be just the thing to break this cycle.

Do you work at a place that offers a true sabbatical?  Let me know in the comments!

  1. The company I worked at had a paid sabbatical for all salaried employees that granted 8 weeks at the completion of your 6th year at the company. Many companies that still have sabbatical policies offer unpaid, paid, or partial salary sabbaticals

  2. c.f. Research Shows That Organizations Benefit When Employees Take Sabbaticals (